Could music be the answer to help heal those in pain?

So does music heal?

Not often do we witness miracles, but I’m told they do happen. Let me explain . . .

Recently, I was at a celebratory function and I couldn’t help but notice a lady of retirement age manoeuvring into the function room by the aid of a modern looking three-wheeler Zimmer frame.

Clearly, it appeared that walking any distance was a challenge and by the look on her face she was in some discomfort.

As the night went on, it could be seen that friends, family and staff were assisting in every way they could to accommodate her needs.

Food brought to the table, drinks delivered from the bar and friendly banter in copious amounts from all concerned. The ideal party atmosphere was developing. We all felt for her.

Then when the disco started, what I saw next amazed me. The lady in question got up to her feet and started jiving around the dance floor, not a Zimmer frame in sight, to the sound of ‘Rock around the Clock’.

Now, every day, I ask myself this, “Did I witness a miracle?”

Panto never goes out of fashion

We’re in the middle of pantomime season and, in theatres and village halls, girls are dressing up as Aladdin, Peter Pan or Prince Charming and defeating the baddies with a swagger.

I tried to defeat a baddy with a swagger once, but he grabbed it and hit me with it.

Back in PantoLand, men struggle into outrageously ornate frocks, slap on OTT make-up and wear enormous wigs decorated with flashing Christmas lights.

At curtain-up, the cast sing the biggest pop song of the year, to the delight of the kids and the bemusement of the adults accompanying them, before telling jokes that were old when Dan Leno was a lad.

They’ve lasted because silly humour never goes out of fashion.

At the end, good defeats evil, there’s usually a Royal Wedding (which unlike Harry and Meghan’s won’t clash with the FA Cup Final) and everyone leaves the theatre with a smile on their face.

Well, not everyone. Pantomimes often contain a few double-entendres to keep the adults happy and baffle the little ’uns.

But you’ll have read that “Dick Whittington” at Manchester Opera House, features a relentless barrage of gags related to the title character and at one point Jimmy Krankie pokes a finger out of his trousers, pretending it’s ‘his’ . . . . well, you get the idea.

One teacher who took her class to the pantomime said it was a step too far and made her and her pupils feel very uncomfortable. That’s the last thing a family pantomime should do.

As veteran panto performer, writer and director Roy Hudd says “Pantomimes have always contained innuendo, but my yardsticks for writing  panto comedy are Laurel and Hardy and Dad’s Army, which made adults and children laugh.”

If you’ve seen a pantomime this year which you thought contained too many rude jokes, let me know. I could do with some new ones.

How the reality of Christmas shopping is nothing like the festive scenes on TV


Why don’t Christmas shoppers really look like they do in the adverts on TV?

Smiling families, matching jumpers and scarves, calmly strolling around the shops, snow gently falling around the town (they never seem to carry ANY bags though, have you noticed?)

Now, here is the reality . . .

The city centre is packed, people all walking in different directions (always the opposite way to me), there are men being dragged around shops they obviously don’t want to be in, children are screaming . . . all surrounded by the same jolly Christmas music in every shop.

Then we have department stores doubling up as saunas. It’s freezing outside so you have to wrap up, but as soon as you walk into a shop it hits you like one of the other half’s midlife flushes!

Oh yes – you can relate to this, can’t you?

It’s the children I feel most sorry for, strapped firmly into their pushchairs with only a Jenkins pastie for company (other pastie providers available), so many shopping bags hanging on the back of the pushchair, both child and pastie are in danger of tipping backwards and being catapulted across Debenhams.

Happy shopping, my friends!

Selfish people on their phones at the theatre – talk about rude!


It was recently reported that during a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Old Vic, a female (I hope the gender neutral among you won’t object to me using that old-fashioned description) member of the audience used her mobile phone not once . . . but twice!

Then, unbelievably, when a male member of the audience asked her to stop talking on the phone (because it was distracting from what was happening on stage) the woman’s male partner turned around and hit the complainant!

To behave that rudely and disrespectfully in a theatre, the woman and her male partner were either drunk or were so dim they couldn’t grasp the concept that when you’re watching a play, a musical, a panto, an opera or a concert, you switch off your phone/tablet and refrain from using them until the show is over.

I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the Old Vic, but know it has 1004 seats.

So you’d think more than one person would’ve been annoyed enough to tell the woman to desist from talking on her phone.

And as the often unpredictable Rhys Ifans was in the play, I’m surprised he didn’t stop the action, grab the phone from her and stick it up Bob Cratchit’s proverbial chimney.

People using mobiles and tablets in cinemas have been a right pain for years.

I have anecdotal evidence from a friend that when he saw ‘Gravity’ in 3D, the person in front of him was checking her tablet every 10 minutes . . . . and continually had to take off her 3D glasses to do so!

Yes, that’s how my friend described her, too.

But as this selfish behaviour has now spread to theatres, I’d like to provide a helpful, simple guide to anyone not completely sure whether they’re allowed to make phone calls or text during a live performance.


Offensive? You must be joking

Have you ever noticed that most observational comedy routines start with the audience being asked, “Have you ever noticed?”

That’s not my style.

In the history of comedy, observational humour is a fairly new arrival, but there are still joke tellers around –  the great Tim Vine, for example. And, at 90, Ken Dodd is the master of rapid joke-delivery.

American vaudeville comics cracked sharp one-liners while our music hall comedians specialised in slapstick and songs like “My Old Man Said Follow The Van”, which I’d recite in its entirety, but I’m limited for space . . .

‘Alternative’ comedy became linked with two words which were welcomed by as many people as they annoyed – Political Correctness.

Here’s an official definition of PC . . .

The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

But, interestingly, before the words ‘political’ and ‘correctness’ were joined together by whoever it was, the only comedy rule was . . .

”Every joke has a victim”.

So, comedians told jokes about fat people, short people, deaf people, stupid people, mothers-in-law – no individual, race, religion or ethnicity was ‘off limits’.

Audiences, including The Fat, The Short and The Stupid*, laughed and didn’t take offence.  The past really is a foreign country where they did things very differently.

The era of the racist, homophobic comedian has passed, although some modern comedians believe nothing is ‘off limits’, not even mocking the disadvantaged.

Are those comics any better than the Bernard Manning’s of yesteryear?

It’s not for me to say. But what’s certain is that comedians today often have to walk on eggshells.

I certainly do. When I’m making an omelette, my kitchen floor’s covered with ’em. I hope I haven’t offended any chickens . . .

* The Fat, The Short and The Stupid is also the title of an un-made Italian western which would have starred Clint Eastwood.

Sometimes there’s just too much information out there

It’s inevitable that some news stories wash over our heads, because we’re exposed to a daily torrent of words and facts and opinions we’re supposed to absorb. We’ve never been so well-informed – even if we don’t want to be.

Information arrives with such frequency and in such huge quantities we rarely have time to question it.

For example, despite the interminable news reports and TV discussions about the subject, do you understand exactly what’s happening with Brexit?

Darn it!

I’ve gone and used the ‘B’ word, after managing to avoid it for months.

Getting away from the subject in hand has put me in a bad mood – which makes me a very ‘cross-digresser’.

The Brexit negotiations are quite festive really. Well, I’ve never seen a pantomime like it before!

‘Affordable Homes’ are two words we hear and read about all the time and I’ve never questioned them – until last week when I read in this newspaper that a new housing development in SA1 will include a certain number of ‘Affordable Homes’.

I suddenly realised that, given that some homes will be affordable, logically the rest of them must be un-affordable and, if no one can afford to buy them, why build them?

So, there’s one more thought to wash over your heads . . .

Time to cut out the kisses

How do you sign off your e-mails?

Cheers? Best wishes?

They’re acceptable . . . if you’re e-mailing a relative, friend or close colleague.

However, when e-mailing someone you don’t know that well – say an employee of your bank – perhaps you sign off formally with Yours Faithfully or Best Regards?

Here’s a tip. You’ll increase your chances of obtaining a bank loan by signing, “Yours Grovellingly”. Don’t laugh. It worked for me.

Here’s another tip – for my male readers. The allegations of inappropriate behaviour (and much worse) pouring out of – and tainting – Hollywood, the BBC and Westminster have created the first ripples of what could well be a long-awaited sea change in attitudes and behaviour between men and women.

This has happened over a matter of weeks and, since those first allegations against a famous movie mogul, it’s gathered momentum like an express train hurtling down a mountain side.

So, gentlemen, from now on it’s probably unwise to sign any e-mail to the opposite sex with an ‘x’ – unless it’s to your girlfriend, wife or mother.

Given the horrendous accounts of men in powerful positions taking advantage of young women, my suggestion might sound trivial, especially if you’ve never ended an e-mail with an ‘x’ at the bottom, something which men and women have been doing for years.

It’s accepted shorthand between people who know each other well and doesn’t mean you’re sending out an actual kiss to the recipient.

But to prevent any misunderstanding, I’ve stopped doing it completely.

I wouldn’t want to make any woman feel uncomfortable or think, “This is a bit creepy!”

So, if you’re one of the few ladies I’ve sent e-mails to in the past that ended with a ‘x’, the next one you receive won’t.

Don’t be offended and don’t blame me. Blame Hollywood, the BBC and Westminster.

‘Tis the season to watch out for personal property

I’m truly devastated. Following another long day, I came home late last night only to find all the doors and windows open and everything stolen . . .

What kind of sick person does that to someone else’s Advent Calendar?

Did I get you there?

But how would you feel if your home had been broken into, which at this time of year is something that happens to so many.

Cars, sheds and homes are targeted throughout the run-up to Christmas as so many of us take our personal security for granted.

Being the victim of crime can have a devastating effect on us and the police tell us to keep all valuables locked up and out of sight. Good advice.

However, most of us only practice this after we have been affected by such a crime.

And another thing. If your Christmas tree lights work the first time you plug them in . . . there is something definitely wrong with them!

It’s not normal, it wouldn’t be Christmas without five hours spent trying to untangle them and another three hours testing each bulb to see which one is causing the others not to work!

Yanks a lot – but no thanks!

As loyal readers know, I like to take a detached look at events and situations and slowly filter them through my brain until they end up on this page.

Most recently, the events in Zimbabwe made me wonder if Mugabe might have roots in the North Of England because his name spelt backwards is ‘E-Ba-Gum!’

Moving on . . .

In the 1960s, when the likes of The Beatles and Gerry and The Pacemakers created hysteria among American teenagers, they called it ‘The British Invasion’.

Many years later, the Yanks are having their revenge because Britain has been crushed by the ‘American invasion’ of our culture, traditions and eating habits.

I’m not referring to American films, books, comics or music which provide wonderful entertainment.

However . . .

Recently I mentioned my disappointed that Halloween – and its two sweet-stealing offspring Trick and Treat – has elbowed Guy Fawkes Night to one side and taken over as ‘The’ big celebration of the Autumn.  Actually, to say I’m ’disappointed’ is an understatement.

Every October 31st my face turns bright purple with rage – very useful when I want to scare ‘Trick Or Treaters’ away from my front door. The UK has been subjected to further ‘Americanisation’ with the unnecessary arrival of the School Prom – once only seen on US TV shows or in films.

British children now demand prom suits, expensive dresses . . . even limos!

Who allowed this to happen?

I want names and addresses!

There’s more . . .

Although we’re in the middle of buying Christmas presents, decorations, wrapping paper etc., this hasn’t prevented some shops from selling food for ‘Thanksgiving’ – an American tradition as important over there as our Christmas dinner.

But we’re not Americans and retailers should stop trying to turn us into the 51st State purely to squeeze more money out of people, many of whom will struggle to pay for Christmas. Have a nice day!

At least we have freedom of speech to air our annoyances

This weeks’ column was written while waiting in two airports, Cardiff and Dublin.

Last weekend, I had the honour of kicking off the festive activities in the heart of Dublin, Ireland.

What surprised me was the fact that it took me longer to drive to Cardiff Wales Airport than the flight from Cardiff to Dublin itself.

Forty five minutes in the air and touchdown at Dublin International Airport – impressive, I thought.

But what was more impressive was the cost. The return flight worked out to be less than £75. How does that work then?

Answers on a postcard please.

The world seems smaller these days and more accessible to many, yet not all modes of transport are affordable to everyone.

My research shows that at certain times of the day, a return train ticket to London would mean taking out a second mortgage. Is it any wonder that there are so many cars on the road?

I’m trying hard to be upbeat and positive at this time of year. However, there are so many things that challenge my thinking and develop into an annoyance. This could be an age thing!

The plus side is that the frustration often gets aired in my weekly column and (from the letters, emails and feedback on social media) it seems the same things annoy you, too!

Freedom of speech is a wonderful privilege at times.